A movement that started in the United States more than 30 years ago, public charter schools serve more than 3.7 million students in about 7,700 schools around the country. According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, they saw an increase of nearly 240,000 students since the beginning of the pandemic—a 7 percent increase—while district public schools have experienced a loss of nearly 1.5 million students—almost 3.5 percent.1
Charter schools are tuition-free schools that are independently run, but publicly funded. Charter schools create their own contracts, establish learning goals, their mission, financial guidelines, and more—not necessarily aligned with state education laws.
While there continues to be a national debate about charter schools’ efficacy, inclusiveness, and accountability, there is also widespread support for this alternative to traditional public schools. Many believe that charter schools are an affordable alternative to private schools, deliver innovative instruction, and support the idea that many charters have a specific curriculum focus. In fact, a 2022 poll, conducted by Policy Analysis for California Education and the University of Southern California (USC) Rossier School of Education, reported that 71 percent of California parents supported charter schools—a 15-point increase from 2020 to 2022.2 States, such as Arkansas, Indiana and Missouri, have recently increased funding for charter schools or lifted the lid on the number they allow. The Alliance claims that charter schools are “the fastest growing movement in public education.”
Regardless of which side of the charter schools debate you fall on, this growing population of specialty schools presents a fertile environment for marketing your products and services. Here are some ideas for selling to charter schools:
- Sell core curriculum. Just like any other public school, charter schools need core curriculum though, in some instances, they aren’t constrained by local or state instructional adoptions. This means you have potential opportunities in communities or states where you didn’t participate in a curriculum review process, but still have valuable instructional programs to offer.
- Discover infrastructure needs. In some states, such as Illinois, charter schools operate independently of school districts so they may have technology or other infrastructure needs that typically public schools don’t have. Many are part of networks of charter schools and receive those types of services from the network so it may make sense to market directly to a network, such as Noble or Kipp. You can find information about Charter Management Organizations in the MDR Data Cloud.
- Consider specialties: While there are general charter schools, many provide specialized learning environments. They may have an academic focus, such as humanities, STEAM, or performing arts, or maybe provide a multilingual or single gender environment. For example, if you offer a STEAM curriculum, identifying charter schools that offer that specialty and developing campaigns to market directly to them will increase your prospects and sales.
- Market your marketing. Another way charter schools differ from public schools is that they often need to market their program to parents in their communities. This means they need a robust web site, social media presence, and other marketing support. If you offer those types of services, charter schools might be the perfect new customers for you.
- Support parent communications. Another district resource that charter schools might not have access to is parent communications tools. Because parents “choose” a charter school for their children, effective, ongoing communications with them is particularly important to ensure student retention and success. Charter schools or their networks are a great target for selling parent communications support.
With their current growth and increased funding, charter schools offer education companies a new horizon for marketing their programs, products, and services in targeted ways. MDR’s Data Cloud includes detailed information for charter schools, including information for Charter Management Organizations. With this data, you can develop charter school marketing campaigns that will help you make inroads with school leaders, generate highly qualified leads, and expand the use of your offerings in this growing learning environment. To learn more, reach out to us!
1Changing Course: Public School Enrollment Shifts During the Pandemic
2PACE/USC Poll Finds California Parents Leaving Traditional Public for Charter Schools